A U.S. federal judge in Wyoming has ruled against the Obama Administration’s regulations on hydraulic fracturing on federal and tribal lands, concluding that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had overstepped its authority to set safety standards for the industry.
The White House plans to appeal the ruling.
The final version of the rules, issued in March 2015, “would have required companies to provide data on chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing and to take steps to prevent leakage from oil and gas wells on federally-owned land,” Reuters reports. “Environmental groups and some neighbours of oil and gas wells have linked fracking to water pollution as well as increased earthquake activity in certain areas.”
District Judge Scott Skavdahl said he wasn’t ruling on the pros or cons of fracking, but only on whether Congress had given the BLM authority to regulate the activity. “It has not,” he said. “The BLM’s effort to do so through the fracking rule is in excess of its statutory authority and contrary to law.”
A senior attorney with the Institute for Policy Integrity, Jack Lienke, said the ruling would have a narrow impact. “This is not a good decision,” he told Grist. “But it’s important to recognize that this case is not about the federal government’s authority to regulate fracking generally. It’s about one particular rule from one particular agency that addressed one particular aspect of fracking—the underground injection of fluids.”
He added that “even if this decision is upheld, it does not address BLM’s ability to regulate methane emissions from fracking operations on federal lands. And it certainly doesn’t address EPA’s ability to regulate those emissions.”